I’m sitting here in my small bedroom in wonderful Bushwick, Brooklyn, at a bit of a loss. I had to stop listening to Democracy Now!‘s Haiti coverage for a few minutes while a made myself a late dinner. Hearing that doctors in that country are performing more amputations on wounded patients since any world event since the American Civil War kind of made my mind explode. If anyone is looking for a counter example to the shameful cable news miniseries Disaster, Haiti! that I wrote about earlier this week, Goodman and crew are (as usual) an inspiration.
I’d been putting off writing about this Coakley horseshit all day, because I think much too much has been made of it already. One special election for an open Senate seat can’t — by definition — serve as a national barometer, unless the media, desperate for a dramatic narrative, forces the election into that role. Which it did. So now here we are, furiously trying to decipher What It All Means, which, it turns out, is precisely whatever we want It To Mean. Greenwald wrote today that Massachusetts’ election served primarily to reinforce every participant’s preconceived notions:
“Reactions to Scott Brown’s victory are predictable and self-serving. Obama loyalists insist it was all about local issues and Coakley’s weaknesses. Right-wing Democrats blame the “left elements in the Party” — who have gotten virtually nothing they’ve wanted the entire year. And most everyone else interprets it as vindication of their pre-existing views.”
This grotesque Rorschach test has given politicians nationwide that most valuable of tools: the opportunity to pursue their unstated agendas under the cover of lower-case “c” conservatism. As Matt Yglesias wrote:
“We’re much more likely looking at a situation where Brown’s victory becomes an excuse for people not to do things they didn’t want to do anyway than a situation where Brown’s victory is the actual reason those things can’t be done.”
I think he’s absolutely correct, and I think that if you believe him — like I do — it’s going to be very difficult not to slip into a deep apathy over the coming months and years. Though it’s undeniably true the GOP is the most dangerous organization on the planet today, this year has given Americans few, if any, reasons to give power to the Democrats. The 2010 elections will be an absolute blood bath for our country’s pathetic excuse for a Liberal political party, which will leave America and the world in a sad state.
I dropped acid with a friend on New Year’s Eve, because, as an English major and a son of an English professor and a librarian, I’ve always been a sucker for symbolism. I wanted to hallucinate my way out of The Zeros — a decade my father referred to in an e-mail to me as “the worst decade since before I [referring to himself] was born.” Symbolism got the better of me though. The acid didn’t work. It’s fitting, in a way. The Zeros were the decade in which it became impossible for any thinking person to deny that America’s inevitable decline was happening faster than anticipated; the hallucinatory bubble years of the Clinton era were gone, and no drug (or credit-default swap) could mask that truth.
And now there’s Coakley, and Brown, and ugh. The New York Times published an article this evening with the headline:
Obama Weighs Shift in Health Plan, Seeking G.O.P. Backing
Fucking awesome. The Times has been pushing the annoying “Democrats are finished!” meme for the past few days, but reading that article — it’s hard to draw any other conclusions. As I tweeted last night: Democrats have historic low of 59 Senate Seats, and look how they’re reacting:
WASHINGTON — President Obama signaled on Wednesday that he might be willing to scale back his proposed health care overhaul to a version that could attract bipartisan support, as the White House and Congressional Democrats grappled with a political landscape transformed by the Republican victory in the Massachusetts Senate race.
Throughout the day, White House officials and Democratic Congressional leaders struggled to find a viable way forward for the health care bill and to digest the reality that much of their agenda, including an energy measure and an overhaul of banking regulations, had been derailed by the outcome in Massachusetts.
On Capitol Hill, Democratic leaders said they were weighing several options. But some lawmakers in both parties began calling for a scaled-back bill that could be adopted quickly with bipartisan support, and Mr. Obama seemed to suggest that if he could not pass an ambitious health care bill, he would be willing to settle for what he could get. [emphasis added]
Hey, great, what a fantastic way to energize the base. Suffer one loss, and run for the hills. I can’t help but be reminded of the Conner Oberst lyric:
“And so I’ve learned to retreat at the first sign of danger, I mean why wait around if it’s just to surrender?”
One really has to marvel at the cowardice on display here. The Bush administration was the worst 8 years in a generation, and Obama rode to an easy victory on his platform of transformative politics. To whatever extent one did or didn’t believe that was possible, that was his platform, and citizens rallied behind it in historic fashion. Now, a year later, the Democrats are being cowed by some idiot in Massachusetts.
And any talk of Republican obstructionism will fall flat with voters. The Democrats control everything in Washington, and yet they appear barely to be in the room. As Jon Walker at FDL wrote:
“Republicans never had 59 Senate seats, and that did not stop them from passing the legislation they wanted. Trying to explain to the American people how, despite controlling everything, Democrats cannot do anything, because a mean minority of 41 Republican senators won’t let them, is a message that will go over like a lead balloon. If you try to use that excuse, people will think elected Democrats are liars, wimps, idiots, or an ineffectual combination of all three.”
Erza Klein elaborated:
Imagine that after 9/11, a liberal Senate Democrat had quietly placed a hold on George W. Bush’s nominee to lead the Transportation Security Agency. The problem in this case wasn’t qualifications. The nominee was a former airport security chief, FBI officer and university professor. The problem was that the airport security chief wouldn’t say that he wanted the Transportation Security Agency employees to unionize.
Then an Islamic radical tried to blow up a plane.
The Democrats would have been hammered for holding up the TSA chief’s nomination. Bush would have made a recess appointment. Republicans would have gleefully campaigned against the liberals who would have left our air travelers defenseless.
That same story just played out, but the parties were reversed.
And now Errol Summers has withdrawn his name from consideration for the appointment.
Coakley’s loss and Brown’s win should mean no more on a national scale than Bill Owen’s victory over teabagger Doug Hoffman. Did the teabaggers all of a sudden adopt a pro-immigration stance after that loss? Of course not. They stuck to their reprehensible platform, and now they appear to be building some kind of national momentum, though I tend to think it will be short lived. But the point is the NY-23 election didn’t mean anything nationally. Treating Coakley’s loss any differently will only become a self-fulfilling prophecy — one the Democrats seem all too ready to concede. Now, the question is simply: will my dad be writing me the same e-mail in 10 years?